Dal Lake: Moving towards its definite end?
Abrar Yousuf Mir, Shiekh Marifatul Haq
Our beautiful Kashmir valley is bestowed with many small and large lakes among which the Dal lake is one of the most popular urban lake, situated in Srinagar, below the foot of the Zabarwan sub-mountain range.
The Dal lake is widely regarded as being the ‘’jewel in the crown of Kashmir ‘’. The lake is fed by the Arrah River, which flows in a northerly extremity through a dark and deep channel called Tel Bal. The lake is divided into four basins namely Hazratbal, Bod Dal, Nigeen and Gagribal.
Nigeen is the deepest basin and the Gagribal is shallowest. It was counted among the most beautiful lakes of the world which Sir Walter Lawrence reflected in his book, “perhaps in the whole world there is no corner as pleasant as Dal lake” but today’s Dal lake is overwhelmed by pollution and Human Greed.
Being a responsible citizen and professional in the field of Environment Sciences and Natural Resources, it hurts us a lot when we see the whole ecosystem of Dal lake has suffered enormous damage at the hands of man as a result the lake is moving towards a definite end.
Illegal construction around Dal lake for the past few years has badly affected both the flora and fauna of the Lake, almost 50,000 people populate nearby small islands and household waste from them is inevitably dumped into Dal Lake. Continuous disposal of waste has severely depleted the lake’s water quality. Oxygen density in the water has come down from 10.2mg/litre to 6.8. Dissolved solids such as phosphorous and nitrogen have increased due to which algal growth has taken place at a high level and also there has been observed enormous change in the chemistry of water due to which few Native fish species have gone extinct and few have enlisted under threatened and vulnerable category.
The increasing trend in nitrate and phosphorous due to untreated sewage received by Dal lake has given birth to few plant species at a high rate like Azolla pinnata, Eichornia which actually were very rare in past and has now posed threat to other life forms of the lake. The lake which once covered an area of 75 square kilometres has shrunk to 12 square kilometres in the last two decades.
The lake’s depth has also come down by nearly 12 meters is a grave sign of danger the lake faces, according to Lakes and waterways development Authority (LWDA) nearly 80,000 tonnes of the slit,31000 kg of nitrates and 4,000 kg of phosphates are added annually to the lake.
In the past three decades, nitrate and phosphate-rich water has been responsible for gastrointestinal diseases for people living around the lake and also for different non-native species of animals and plants growing in the lake. However, due to its location and beauty, tourist rush remains round the year due to which excessive pollutants in the form of sewage, silt deposits are added around the embankments of the lake which in long become a solid factor for change in lake’s geography.
In 1938 Biologist Jacob visited Kashmir and reported 16 fish species of Schizothorax but unfortunately due to pollution and unregulated night fishing, the number of the same species has reached five, said by Head Fisheries department (SKAUST), Dr Masood ul Hassan.
Therefore, Dal Lake is moving towards its definite end. So there is an immediate need to formulate a proper ecologically sound management plan that helps to conserve the lake in a real ecological sense.
The first and foremost step to combat pollution in Dal lake would be to construct more STPs and check and check the amount of untreated sewage flowing into the lake. Steps should be taken to involve more people to create awareness especially among hotels and local shops that help a lot to keep waste disposal at bay.
The decision which was recently taken regarding the declaration of Dal Lake as a protected wetland by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir should give practical shape with immediate effect so that violators, illegal poaching, illegal construction can be regulated by the Environment protection act and wetland conservation and management rules.
There is a dire need for anti-poaching measures which the department of fisheries should take to keep the fish population in equilibrium with the lake and prevent further extinction of native Schizothorax species.
Besides this LAWDA in calibration with other state boards associated with environment protection must find out the different possibilities and environment-friendly strategies for the management and conservation of such an important wetland site.
(The authors-Abrar Yousuf Mir is an M.sc Student and Shiekh Marifatul Haq is a Research fellow School of biological sciences, University of Kashmir)